‘Stairway to Heaven’ was stolen?!

This is a bit of a a serpentine story that started when doing some music research on a song that I was working on. It ended up with the discovery that the intro to Led Zeppelin’s iconic song, Stairway to Heaven was ripped from another band. Also, along the way, an association with Jimmy James, aka Jimi Hendrix.

The story first starts with the song It’s All the Same, by the sick puppies. Perhaps you’ve heard this song in its association with the Free Hugs video that has been viewed nearly 65 million times on YouTube.

Actually, I was looking for an acoustic version of this song, and I found one that was quite amazing. You have to wade through a commercial in the beginning of this version but it is worth it.

OK, I then switched over to Rhapsody to see if I could find some other versions of the song worth considering. Now, you’ve probably noticed this, but the title of a song cannot be copywritten, so there are usually multiple songs with the same song title.

That’s where it started to get interesting. The band Spirit, a psychedelic rock group from the 60’s also did a song by the exact same title. So I cued up the Spirit song and several more. That’s when I came across the song Taurus, which is an instrumental that has a remarkable likeness to the StH intro. Sure enough, after a little digging it turns out that Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit in a 1968 U.S. tour, and even played one of Spirit’s songs in their set. They were certainly familiar with Tarus.

Take a listen to Taurus. The STH intro riff kicks in about 45 seconds in: Taurus by Spirit

And Spirit was an interesting story in their own right. Spirit was formed by 15 year old Randy California and his stepfather, jazz drummer, Ed Cassidy. It seems that Randy went with his new stepfather in 1966 to the New York City area, so his father could find gigs and met and played in a band called Jimmy James & the Blue Flames. Jimmy James was shortly to make a trip to England and use his given name, Jimi Hendrix. Randy’s parents forbade him from going with Jimi, as he still had to finish high school, of course.  Hendrix actually gave Randy his name. His real hame was Randy Craig Wolfe, and Jimi called him Randy California to set him apart from the other Randy in the Blue Flames who was dubbed Randy Texas.

Randy and his stepfather formed the band Spirit in 1968 while he was just 16 years old, and Randy wrote Spirit’s biggest hit: I Got a Line on You. Sadly, Randy California died in 1997 while saving his son from drowning in Hawaii.

There’s more to the story actually, but for now, take a look at this Spanish acoustic version of the song by Rodrigo y Gabriela.  I’m not a big fan of STH, but I love this.